Harrogate Prezzo fire 'hammer blow' to town
A major fire which wrecked a restaurant and damaged flats in Harrogate town centre is a "hammer blow" to businesses and residents affected, an MP has said.
Ninety firefighters fought for several hours on Tuesday to control the blaze at Prezzo Italian restaurant in Albert Street. Thirteen flats were evacuated.
The street will be closed for at least two days as the building is shored up.
Local MP Andrew Jones said: "Many of the businesses will be out of action for some time."
A Harrogate Borough Council spokesman said the local authority was considering what support it could give to businesses affected by the fire.
However, he said the immediate priority was to ensure public safety and scaffolding would be erected over the next two to three days to stabilise the front and rear of the affected properties.
Residents from the 14 housing association flats which were evacuated have all been found temporary alternative accommodation.
But local businesses have already expressed concern about the effect on their trade.
Businesswoman Sam Addy said: "I thought for a little independent shop like myself, and the other one at the other end of the street, that is no good for us.
"Although I feel bad for Prezzo and Pizza Express they can afford to make a loss but we can't really afford to be out of business for a few weeks.
"I just hope that we stand strong and people will support us."
Mr Jones, the Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said: "The fire on Albert Street is a hammer blow for the business and residents affected.
"Many of the businesses will be out of action for some time and the employees without jobs during that period.
"Around 13 families had to be re-housed overnight from flats in the area and I understand that the housing association that owns the properties will be assessing whether or not people can return to their homes.
"It seems likely though that some have lost their homes and belongings - a personal tragedy for them.
"This terrible fire has drawn the community together and I would like to thank all those who have donated cash, blankets, food and toiletries to help those who may have lost their belongings. "
North Yorkshire Fire Service said the fire was the biggest in the town since the Majestic Hotel was severely damaged in May 2010.
Station manager Lee Smith said the age of the buildings in Albert Street had contributed to the fire's spread.
"There was a fire in the ducting area and it travelled through the different nooks and crannies, spaces and voids in that building," he said.
"It's quite an old building, it's had lots of work done over the years and this has meant there's been lots of spaces that enabled the fire to progress."
Although none of the residents was injured in the fire, it is feared a number of pets may have perished.
One resident called Steve told BBC Radio York: "At the moment I'm gutted and feel bereaved because I feel my cat's dead. I'm almost in tears."
Another resident, Jessica Scott, told Stray FM that she had watched the fire knowing her pet rabbit and two hamsters were inside.